MANAGER Nigel Adkins admits Hull City’s run of fixtures against the trio of Yorkshire clubs sitting in the top four of the Championship is made all the more challenging by their contrasting styles of play.
The Tigers host Middlesbrough tomorrow as part of a double-header that will see table-topping Leeds United head east to the KCOM Stadium on Tuesday night.
A visit to Adkins’s former club Sheffield United on October 6 then completes a White Rose triple for Hull ahead of the next international break.
“To play first, second and fourth in the league means it will be a tough, challenging week,” said the Hull chief to The Yorkshire Post.
“We are also going to play three teams who all play three different ways. We have got to apply ourselves to the strengths that they have got and, likewise, we have to play to our strengths and exploit weaknesses in the opposition.”
You should be able to be fearless in what you are doing. Knowing that it will be a good challenge you should embrace that challenge. That is the way I view it.Nigel Adkins
Hull have been vulnerable at set-pieces in recent weeks, something that Boro’s manager Tony Pulis will be looking to exploit tomorrow. He is renowned for a direct style, whereas Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa try to play out from the back with Kalvin Phillips dropping deep to become effectively a third central defender whenever full-backs Luke Ayling and Barry Douglas bomb forward.
With Blades employing a three-man backline that allows Chris Basham and Jack O’Connor licence to roam, Hull’s upcoming trio of fixtures brings contrasting challenges for Adkins.
“We work very hard here as staff and players,” said the Hull chief, who watched Boro beat Bolton Wanderers last week. “Our preparation is very good.
“We go through a lot of details and spend a lot of time preparing for games, trying to find a way to win. You want to have a style, so there are principles that you have got and you want to go and impose them.
“For example, if we don’t defend set-plays well against Middlesbrough we aren’t going to win the game.
“We will be tested from that point of view. But if we don’t give set-plays away to start off with that can nullify it,
“It is a fact that we are going to have to be very good at set-plays and very good in general play when we haven’t got the ball.”
As hard as Adkins has worked on negating Boro’s considerable aerial threat, he also wants Hull to play with freedom.
“You should be able to be fearless in what you are doing,” he added. “Knowing that it will be a good challenge you should embrace that challenge. That is the way I view it.
“We will find about ourselves as individuals and as a group. Out of failure sometimes you can learn more about character than from being successful.”
Hull have won just twice in nine league outings this term and sit fourth bottom in the Championship.
Last weekend’s defeat at Reading was poor, but a decent points return from the upcoming trio of clashes with Boro, Leeds and the Blades could send the Tigers into next month’s international break on a high.
“We need to pick up more points,” said Adkins, who will be without Evandro and Daniel Batty against Boro tomorrow. “You look at the trend and we are not on the points per game ratio that I would like.
“For us to be getting in that top-ten area we need to be getting another point a game. I want us to be pushing on and the players to believe.
“Everyone had us to be where we are in the division. I want us to go beyond that and think higher than that, plus have the application to push on and pick up more points from games.”
As for Boro, who are level on points with leaders Leeds, Adkins added: “Middlesbrough are good, I went up to watch them play Bolton last Wednesday.
“They are going to be a tough nut to go and crack. They score a lot of goals from set-plays and they are at the top of the division for a reason, as are Leeds and Sheffield United.”